Egg structure and early embryonic development of the aspidogastrean, Rohdella amazonica, a basal trematode, were studied by transmission electron microscopy (TEM) to gain insight into functional, developmental, and phylogenetic characteristics. Gravid worms were removed from the intestine of naturally infected banded puffer fish Colomesus psittacus, collected from the Bay of Marajó, Paracauari River (Pará, Brazil) and processed by standard TEM methods. By the time of pronuclear fusion, the fertilized zygote was already enclosed in a thick, electron-dense pre-operculate eggshell and an underlying layer of vitellocytes that fused into a vitelline syncytium as they were still secreting their shell granules. When cleavage commenced, a small number of macromeres moved to the area just underneath the eggshell, where they fused to form a single syncytial embryonic envelope. Simultaneously, the smaller blastomeres continued to divide as they maintained contact with each other, but remained separate from the vitelline syncytium. Concurrent with these cellular changes, a thickened knob expanded at one pole of the eggshell and began to form an opercular suture. By the time the operculum was fully formed, the vitelline syncytium had mostly degenerated, while the smaller blastomeres had become cohesive as a single mass that preceded the differentiation and morphogenesis of the cotylocidium larva. The general pattern of cleavage and eggshell formation resembles that of other trematodes and polylecithal cestodes, but the single embryonic envelope has been reported only in a few basal taxa. The only other aspidogastrean studied in detail to date is very similar, indicating close phylogenetic affinity and conservatism within this basal neodermatan and neoophoran group.

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